Surgeon in court to face second negligence suit

Dr London Lucien Ooi is also awaiting the outcome of a negligence suit brought against him by a prominent businessman who alleged that he was misdiagnosed as having pancreatic cancer.
Dr London Lucien Ooi is also awaiting the outcome of a negligence suit brought against him by a prominent businessman who alleged that he was misdiagnosed as having pancreatic cancer.ST FILE PHOTO

Doctor sued by widower over post-operative care of his wife who died after surgery

A surgeon awaiting the outcome of a negligence suit brought against him by a prominent businessman is now fighting a similar case involving another wealthy Malaysian.

Dr London Lucien Ooi was accused in the High Court yesterday of being negligent in his post-operative care of Madam Lee Lee Chan, 59, who died from complications 24 days after undergoing an operation to remove a pancreatic tumour.

The Singapore permanent resident and her husband, Mr Koo Quay Keong, ran jewellery businesses on both sides of the Causeway.

Around three years after her death on July 28, 2011, Mr Koo sued Dr Ooi, a senior surgical oncologist at Singapore General Hospital, seeking damages. Among other things, he is claiming about RM675,000 (S$220,240) for funeral expenses.

Mr Koo does not take issue with the original operation Dr Ooi performed on his wife on July 4, 2011, nor two subsequent operations carried out after complications arose.

His case is that despite clear signs of post-surgery complications - in particular, a pancreatic leak - Dr Ooi failed to take appropriate steps to manage them.

In March 2010, a tumour was discovered in Madam Lee's pancreas but she declined an operation.

In June 2011, after consulting five other doctors, she saw Dr Ooi, who assured her that he had successfully completed more than 100 such operations.

Mr Koo's lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, told the court that in the days after the surgery, she developed breathing difficulties.

Up to 2 litres of fluid a day were being drained from her abdomen and she was screaming from abdominal pain.

Mr Tan contended that the high levels of amylase - an enzyme - in the fluid should have alerted Dr Ooi to the possibility of a pancreatic leak, which is a common complication.

Dr Ooi's lawyers, from Allen and Gledhill, argue that Mr Koo is not able to show that Dr Ooi's alleged acts of negligence caused Madam Lee's condition. The complication she suffered is known to occur despite due care and competence, and even if it had been diagnosed earlier, she would have been managed in the same way.

The hearing continues.

In the previous case, Datuk Seri Hii Chii Kok sued Dr Ooi and the National Cancer Centre Singapore for allegedly telling him he had pancreatic cancer. After he had parts of five organs removed, tests showed that he did not.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Surgeon in court to face second negligence suit'. Print Edition | Subscribe